Tony Alamo News celebrates the one year anniversary of cult leader Tony Alamo’s conviction on ten counts of transporting minors across state lines for sex.


Texarkana Gazette
July 25, 2009
By: Lynn LaRowe

Alamo guilty on all 10 counts
Prosecution believes he will spend life in prison

The five Jane Does and other victims who testified against self-proclaimed evangelist Tony Alamo held hands, wept and hugged Friday as a federal judge proclaimed him guilty 10 times.

Bernie LaZar Hoffman, better known as Alamo, will be sentenced on 10 counts of transporting minors across state lines for sex by U.S. District Judge Harry Barnes in six to eight weeks.

“We believe he will face the rest of his natural life in prison,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyra Jenner, who along with Clay Fowlkes and Candace Taylor presented the government’s case.

Jury foreman Frank Oller said the nine men and three women believed the prosecution’s witnesses and carefully considered each count.

“That was the evidence that was proven,” Oller said. “We came up with a full decision that we are quite satisfied with.”

The jurors who found Alamo guilty at about 10:30 Friday morning came from seven counties that make up the Texarkana Division of the Western District of Arkansas: Miller, Lafayette, Nevada, Hempstead, Little River, Sevier and Howard.

Jenner said FBI Special Agent Randall Harris and Arkansas State Police Sergeant John Bishop conducted the investigation leading to Alamo’s convictions.

“It can’t be lost on anybody that Randall Harris and John Bishop gave a couple years of their careers on this case, gaining the trust of these victims,” said FBI Special Agent in charge Thomas Browne. “Randall hasn’t had a day off since the raid. He’s a gem and we’re fortunate to have him.”

Browne said investigators worked closely with Jenner, Taylor and Fowlkes during the course of their two-year investigation.

Residents of Fouke, Ark., where Alamo’s ministry compound is located, expressed gratitude for the successful prosecution.

“The girls are calling them ‘the dream team,’” said Judy Frazier, who owns and operates Jerry’s General Store with her husband in Fouke, Ark., where Alamo’s ministry/compound is located. Frazier said she knows several of the victims.

“It’s good to know Alamo’s not coming back,” she said.

“Randall there is no way words could express our gratitude,” said Fouke Mayor Terry Purvis as he clasped Harris’ hand. “God love you. Thank you sir.”

Harris said the investigation moved quickly once victims came forward and agreed to testify and said “insinuations” during the trial that the government dragged its feet were inaccurate.

“The girls deserved this day,” Harris said.

The absolute control witnesses described Alamo as exerting over his followers by dictating when they ate, slept, prayed and where and with whom they lived allowed Alamo to escape prosecution for so long, said Charlie Downs, an ex-member of the church. Downs, 21, left the group several years ago after 18 years.

Loyalists were not permitted to use the phone, travel at will, vote or marry without Alamo’s permission, ex-followers have said. Children could be taken from their parents at any time, jobs were assigned by Alamo and children were not allowed to attend school when they were needed to work.

Witnesses testified Alamo left them financially destitute if they chose to leave and told them God would punish them if they did.

“Me and my family were always being put down and ridiculed by Tony,” Downs said. “We were treated like dirt by him.”

The five Jane Does named in Alamo’s federal indictment were brought across state lines for sex and married Alamo as children. Their parents’ devotion to the man they thought talked to God kept them from protecting their daughters, the girls testified.

The fear of physical retribution kept them in line with Alamo’s desires as well, they said. One of the Jane Does testified her 3-year-old brother was beaten with a board and many of the Jane Does said they’d been struck by Alamo.

“You really appreciate the courage they showed stepping up to face their demon,” said Browne of Alamo’s many victims.

Cheers rose in Merfeld’s, a coffee shop across the street from the federal building in downtown Texarkana, as the news of the guilty verdicts was aired on television noon time newscasts. The atmosphere following Barnes’ reading of the jury’s decision was one of elation. Alamo’s devotees left quickly in cars.

“They tried to say this case was about their religious freedom,” said Mary Coker, founder of Partnered Against Cult Activity and a Fouke resident. “It was always about the sexual, mental and physical abuse by Tony Alamo.”

Alamo’s defense team, lead attorney Don Ervin of Houston, Florida lawyer Phillip Kuhn, Texarkana attorney Jeff Harrelson and investigator David Macgonagill, said they were disappointed in the jury’s decision.

“If they’d followed the law they’d have acquitted my client,” said Ervin, who said he plans to appeal the convictions.

Coker said Alamo might still be free if not for the courage of those who testified against him, those who helped the FBI and the “persistence” of Harris.

When questioned by some of the many media representatives outside the courthouse, Alamo vowed to continue running his ministry from prison. Federal marshals led him to and from the courthouse cuffed and chained each day of the trial.

“I’m just another prophet rotting in jail for the gospel,” Alamo said.

Alamo’s prior felony conviction for tax evasion and the nature of the crimes for which he’s been convicted will move the recommendation up on the ranges of punishment he faces.

Each count also includes the possibility of a fine as high as $250,000.

Alamo, 74, could get up to 30 years on three counts, as many as 15 on three others and four counts are punishable by up to 10 years.

If he were to receive the maximum on each charge and if Barnes ordered the penalties to run consecutively, the sentence would total 175 years.

In: 2009 - (Trial year)

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